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Hard Choices: Do You Still Want to Be an Artist?

Before the pandemic, you had a burning mission to make attention-grabbing, thought-provoking art that would fly straight off gallery walls into art history. Today, you are at the bottom of the vaccine list and living in your parents’ basement. Your ideas are blocked and the world has drastically changed, but being an artist is all you know how to do.

Answer these questions and add up the points to see if you still have the fire within to rekindle your smoldering enthusiasm.


1. A well-known independent curator starts following you on Instagram and likes some of your older posts. You:

a. Quickly slide into his DMs and suggest a studio visit.

b. Like an old picture of him parasailing in St. Moritz with Patti Smith and Leo DiCaprio.

c. Block this online predator.


2. Squarespace sends a payment notice for your artist website. You haven’t updated it since March 2020, and even then it needed work. You:

a. Never open the email because you can’t remember any of your login info.

b. Pay for one more year, change the homepage font, and start watching Framing Britney Spears on your phone again.

c. Buy the three-year renewal package, update your CV, and diligently add pictures of your latest work.


3. A classmate of yours from graduate school now has a blue-chip gallery and a large studio with many assistants. He asks if you would be interested in working as his studio manager. You:

a. Accept the position and siphon studio visits from all his heavy-hitting contacts.

b. Take the job and start paying off the student loan debt that your new employer could easily cover with one painting.

c. Check the mail for your $1,400 from Joe Biden so you can double down on Chuck E. Cheese #stonks you bought with your unemployment. We did it, Joe, still holding!


4. Even though your name remains on her roster, your gallerist has been ghosting you since well before Covid. Worse, she never clicked the WeTransfer link to download the images of new work you recently sent. You:

a. Send a text message to your gallerist offering her your grandma’s vaccination appointment.

b. Rat her out to Cancel Art Galleries from a burner account.

c. Put the finishing touches on your Etsy tarot candle store.


5. A gallery you’ve never heard of in Düsseldorf reached out via DM with an invitation to be in a group show. It sounds great, but they want you to pack and pay for the shipment with a promise of reimbursement. You:

a. Contract Covid from the Staples employee who helped you find bubble wrap.

b. Write an indignant response that includes a link to the W.A.G.E. fee calculator.

c. Say yes and immediately start spamming your alumni listserv with the good news.


6. An artist friend asks you to be a Zoom guest in their BFA class but they cannot pay. You:

a. Politely decline by saying that your laptop is too old to run the current version of Zoom.

b. Give a dynamic three-hour artist talk that inspires the students to greatness.

c. Don’t prepare anything and rant about how artists aren’t valued while sipping whiskey from a mug.


7. Your work was not picked for a juried show called “Community in the Time of Covid,” and your latest application for an artist relief grant was rejected. You:

a. Continue plugging away at the Creative Capital grant that is due next week. The sixth time’s the charm!

b. Re-read the highlighted sections in your dog-eared copy of How to Be an Artist by Jerry Saltz.

c. Lament cancel culture on social media to your 37 followers.


0–4: You were a highly imaginative, precociously creative child whose love of drawing was the gateway drug that exposed you to the pushers and pimps of the art industry. Quarantine turned out to be the rehab you didn’t know you needed. Sleeping on a sofa for the last year has taught you resilience and readied you for your next challenge. Say farewell to art and hello to a promising future in the mouth massage industry.

5–9: Nothing will ever diminish your love of art or your need to create, but you clearly recognize the difference between a career and a hobby. Being in a vibrant community is more important to you than constantly climbing a StairMaster to nowhere. Painting watercolors that you give to friends and family as birthday gifts still brings you inexplicable joy. You are able to wear a Uniqlo Warhol T-shirt without any pain or regret.

10–14: Your passion borders on pathological. Quarantine regulations are as meaningless to you as bad reviews. Nothing will ever stop you from going to the studio or clinching an exhibition. You may be the sole attendee of your opening, but you wouldn’t miss it for the world. As others flee the art world, you are right there with a shovel to scoop up their sloppy second sales and biennial invites. You are scary.

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